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American Mystery Classics

Rim of the Pit by Hake Talbot

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"I came here to make a dead man change his mind."

So begins a creepy and unusual mystery celebrated to this day as one of the greatest "impossible crime" novels of all time. When a family's promise to protect the beloved pine grove of their dead father creates a financial strain, a seance is suggested to summon the ghost of the late logger and ask its permission. A mixed group of skeptics and believers convene at a snow-bound lodge to call the spirit with a group that includes a gambler, a businessman, a clairvoyant, a professor, and a refugee, among others. With so many diverse interests at the table, the tensions run high -- but when one of the participants ends up dead, there is reason to suspect that a nefarious spirit is to blame.

The body is discovered in a locked room, impenetrable from the outside -- just one of many bizarre and inexplicable circumstances surrounding the scene of the crime. There is also the trail of footprints in the snow, beginning and ending amid a field of untouched powder; another on the roof, with the tracks leading for a short distance before vanishing into nothingness; and, there are fingerprints on a gun suspended at an unreachable height...

Supernatural undertones and eerie atmosphere clear away in the third act to present a logical conclusion to the case, teasing out the clues and murder methods that unscrupulous readers may have missed. With its off-beat exposition, puzzling plot and exceptional prose, Rim of the Pit is a cult classic of the Golden Age era deserving of a wide audience today.

Introduction by Rupert Holmes